Trip Status

Whale Season is here!

The month of June brings out a palpable excitement amongst the Southern Right Charters crew. Every year around this time, the southern right whales that have been feasting further south in the Southern Ocean make their way north to our waters to mate and calve in the protected bays of the Southern Cape.

For many of us, the start of the whale season can produce some of our most memorable tours. The uncertainty and variability of sightings may have something to do with it. Treating each tour as an expedition in itself.

Our first whale watching tour of the season took place on the 2nd of June, and anticipation built in the days leading up to the tour. What would we see?

At 9am, Miroshca, our whale watching catamaran made her way out of the Hermanus New Harbour and into Walker Bay in search of our flippered friends. A disturbance on the water was spotted a few miles out, which was determined to be an exceptionally large pod of common dolphin, estimated to be in the range of 6000 animals. The pod headed in our direction and proceeded to encircle the boat while porpoising and playing, giving everyone an amazing experience, while feeling as if we were part of the pod.

Migratory Humpbacks, resident Brydes & the arrival of the Southern Right whales

The first half of the month offered idyllic sea conditions and a good amount of winter sun. We enjoyed sightings of passing Humpback whales that gave us an aerial show while enjoying a pit stop in our bay on their trip further north to their breeding grounds, elusive resident Bryde’s whales that left us longing for more, often only presenting a blow followed by a quick glimpse of a dorsal fin, and even a Mola mola sunfish that curiously circled our boat numerous times giving all a good view.

Our first Southern Right Whale for the 2021 Hermanus Whale season was encountered on the 13th of June 2021, with sporadic sightings of this species up until the Cape of Storms reared her head for the latter part of the month, resulting in 14 days of ‘no sea days’ and the calm waters of Walker Bay that brings the whales here to calve were not left in the calmest state. Luckily for the southern rights, they are used to much rougher conditions, spending a large portion of the year feeding in waters home to the roaring 40’s through to the screaming 60’s. The number of whales in the bay steadily increased, and many powdery blows and the odd fluke were seen from the shore during our land-based whale tours while we walked the Hermanus Cliff paths to some of our favoured lookout points.

The number of Southern Right Whales in the bay is on the rise

Once the weather gave some reprieve, we were back out on the water, the southern right whales, now here in full swing. Noteworthy for this early in the season was sighting mom and calf pairs, a highlight being a calf out in the bay trying to master the art of using its fluke. A largely cartilage filled fluke with little muscle turns into a large floppy mass, but after numerous attempts, some coordination was obtained and the calf managed what looked to be its first ever lobtail, much to the delight of its supporters on the boat.

So far, July has brought about numerous mating groups in the bay, with more and more whales arriving from their more southern latitudes. These mating groups are incredible to see, with up to seven animals in one group being the largest group to date. The mating groups consist of one female and up to six males, forming what can best be described as a pleasant form of “whale soup”, with whales rolling around each other in a beautiful mess of splashes and white water. There is no aggression shown during these moments, just large amounts of fondling as the males wait for their turn to mate with the female.

Rare encounter of Humpback dolphins

Another highlight of July was a great sighting of a small pod of Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins, right outside the harbour wall. These dolphins have a stocky build, with a distinct hump on their back underneath the dorsal fin. They are seldom seen compared to our more common species, the Bottlenose and Common Dolphins that are often encountered.

With whale numbers in the bay rapidly increasing, every tour provides us with a different and exciting experience.

Say Hello to MIRA – the southern right whale

‘MIRA’ is a 16 year old female southern right whale with a large distinctive white marking on her dorsal.

In addition to keeping sighting logs of each whale & dolphin sighting during our boat tours, Southern Right Charters photographs, record and catalogues any whales seen with distinctive markings, as part of our Whale Sighting Programme in the hopes that we can determine re-sightings of specific whales in the future which could offer immediate knowledge on the whales age, movements and birthing cycle.

On the 31st July 2020, our crew spotted MIRA in Walker Bay, Hermanus. This is our first successful and official re-sighting as she was last spotted from our boat in September 2017. What is amazing is that in 2017 and now in 2020, both encounters have seen MIRA with a new calf. This indicates a healthy birthing/calving period of three years, with MIRA, doing great, having calved in both 2017 & 2020.

On further investigation by the Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit, they confirmed that MIRA is in their database, but not as an adult but as a calf!

MIRA was born in 2004 to female R98/113A, showing that she is turning 16 years old this year. In a social media post on the 4th August 2020, the Whale Unit mentioned that “Considering the average age of first calving is about 8 years old, Southern Right Charters likely captured her 2nd (2017) and 3rd (2020) calf.”

This good news story rippled across the local news in Hermanus, with many locals posting sightings of MIRA and her calf during the 2020 whale season, over a +/- 3 month period ranging from end July well into October MIRA and her calf ‘set up camp’ in Hermanus and was often seen from shore and boat.

 

 

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TODAY

Saturday
02 Mar 2024

Hermanus: End of the Southern Right Whale Season 2023

For more info on the current Humpback Season on the West Coast with Whale ExpeditionSA

Contact us

info@whaleexpedition.co.za

+27 82 353 0550

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* Trip status is updated daily around 16h00 SAST.

* Subject to unforseen circumstances.